Steyr Factory Tour – How Steyr-Mannlicher Hammer Forges Rifle Barrels

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Steyr-Mannlicher, which is located, naturally, in Steyr, Austria, has been hammer forging barrels longer than any other firearm manufacturer. They’re located in the same town as GFM, the company that manufactures the massive, complex, and very expensive hammer forging machines used by nearly every large arms maker in the world. We visited their ultra-modern facility, constructed in 2004, to compare their manufacturing processes to the other companies that we’d visited on our whirlwind tour of Europe.

Among other weapons, Steyr makes the iconic AUG, the world’s most successful bullpup assault rifle, and a weapon that can still go head-to-head with new bullpup rifle designs despite being over 30 years old. Every Austrian-made AUG has a hammer forged barrel. The barrels for these rifles are manufactured exactly as described in this video, with one notable exception – military AUGs are profiled (outside diameter turned down on a CNC lathe) after hammer forging, as required by their military specifications and contracts. Civilian AUG barrels are not profiled after hammer forging.

All Steyr barrels are manufactured on the machine you see in this video. Unlike other companies, the Steyr hammer forge was enclosed in its own room. This kept noise near the hammer forge far lower than we were used to after seeing over half a dozen other hammer forge machines in operation.

Another thing that impressed me was the number of times each individual rifle barrel was visually and physically inspected. The Steyr employees didn’t mess around when it came to quality, and they were all highly experienced.

Be sure to watch the video in HD so you can see how that Pro Hunter in the final video clip shoots!

Steyr Hammer Forged Barrel Manufacturing
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Andrew Tuohy

Andrew Tuohy was a Navy Corpsman with the 5th Marine Regiment. He makes a living by producing written and visual content within the firearm industry, and he also teaches carbine courses. He prefers elegant weapons for a more civilized age, and regularly posts at Vuurwapen Blog.


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  • joe

    The hammer forging process is vastly insuperior to modern cut, or button rifling, either one of these processes will make a barrel that is more accurate and lasts much longer.

    • Numsy

      @joe
      BAHAHAHHAHAH you don’t have a clue do you joe… savage are complete trash just like button rifling, that’s why they use it. look up savage rifle catastrophic failure.

  • armed_partisan

    I’m a huge fan of Steyr products. They have always been a super innovative company, and I think they would be even bigger if their designs were LESS revolutionary! They could use a more vigorous marketing department. Bring back the Steyr GB!

  • armed_partisan

    @ Joe, you are incorrect, sir. Why do you think that both FN and Colt’s now use hammer forged barrels for their military products? Why are FN and subsidiary Winchester bolt-action rifles offered with hammer forged barrels now? Why is Knight’s Armament investigating the adoption of the hammer forged process?

    Hammer forging alters the grain structure and allows more even transmission of heat across the surface of the barrel, whereas surface cutting creates “hotspots” where heat builds up, causing potential failure. As for accuracy, almost nobody uses cut rifling, which is different from button rifling, which could be argued to be more accurate, but not longer lasting. The people who might offer cut rifling are custom shops who use one-off barrels, and any custom product will be more precise than a mass production item, which has little to do with the mode of manufacture.

  • Mountainbear

    The Steyr AUG that our draftees are issued are very sturdy rifles. Usually they are handed out in week 1 of the service and handed back after 6 months (8 months in my days). In their service life they go through… Oh I don’t know, the hands of hundreds of recruits.

    The rifles are very accurate and last long. Very long. I’m pretty sure my first one, serial number EI081 (still remember it, even though it’s been a “few” years since then), is still in rotation (and I’m sure it’s been used before me a few dozen times.)

  • Matt

    Very cool video Andrew.

  • Fred Johnson

    Very informative video for such a short amount of time.

    Perfect for my usual stop-in while sipping some coffee!

  • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. /Watters

    Remington and Winchester had procured hammer-forged rifling machines by the late 1960s, and Ruger soon followed. The first US rifle company to offer barrels with CHF rifling was Weatherby. However, their rifles were effectively sub-contracted out to European manufacturers, with only the final finishing and assembling done in the US.

    I find it funny when folks only associate CHF rifling with modern high tech firearms, when Winchester had offered it for decades in rifles like the Model 94.

  • joe

    @armed_partisan, you may be right with the use of machineguns, but for the accuracy factor you are wrong. Did the winner of the IBS nationals use a hammer forged barrel? I think not, all serious long range shooters in the “accuracy game” use either button or cut rifled barrels from respected manufacturers like lilja, kreiger, bartlein, pac-nor etc.

  • Paralus

    Thanks for the great story. I love my Steyr.

  • Distiller

    @ “joe”: You can’t compare an industrial-scale serial production process to a specialized production run of a few hundred or thousand barrels. Totally different pair of shoes.

  • joe

    @ “Distiller”, Savage arms, a rather large operation, uses the button rifling process, as does Weatherby.

  • armed_partisan

    @ Joe, I conceded in my original comment to you that it may be more accurate, due to the sharpness of the edges created by button rifling (which can also result in burs which must be honed out) versus the relative “roundness” of the edges of the rifling in hammer forging. Hammer forged barrels are metallurgically more sound, and they last longer. Accuracy is basically a finite property of every barrel, regardless of manufacture, but a custom rifle and one off barrel will be more accurate than a mass manufactured product, as noted above. For a match barrel, you’ll get somewhere between 500 and 3000 rounds off before your accuracy starts to decline, depending on the cartridge, pressure, bullet bearing surface, velocity, powder chemistry, etc.

  • Andrew

    joe/armed_partisan, I spoke with the CEO of Lothar Walther, they produce hundreds of thousands of button rifled barrels. He stated that the cut, button, and hammer forging processes all have the capability to produce equally accurate barrels, if certain things are done/checked/etc. The interview will be posted here on TFB within the next few weeks. In the same interview is a talk with Jochen Anschutz about what his company uses and why.

  • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. Watters

    Factories use button rifling because it is faster to perform than hook-cut and broached rifling, but the set up costs are cheaper than cold hammer forged rifling. However, if the internal dimensions or hardness are not uniform throughout the bore, the button can skid.

  • Cymond

    FYI, this video has been reposted by Tactical Gear Magazine:

    http://www.tacticalgearmag.com/video/steyr-firearms-how?et_mid=507370&rid=56740997

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/ Steve (The Firearm Blog)

      Cymond, thanks for letting us know. I am glad people and watching it, it’s a great video.

  • james

    can you actually visit the factory 222222222

  • joe

    How does winchester’s heavy barrels compair to Steyr’s product??

  • http://www.wwid.com Nand Kumar

    We understand you manufacture hammer forged rifle barrels?
    We can supply free sample of Dies for hammerforging of rifle barrels as per your drgs & requirement ( without oligation )
    If interested please contact with details to

    Nand Kumar
    Managing Director
    Worldwide Industrial Distributors Pvt Ltd
    315, Topaz Bldg, 3rd Floor, Punjagutta
    Hyderabad 500082, INDIA
    email: info@wwid.com
    Ph: 91 40 23414658, Fax: 91 40 23413988

  • Pieter Putter

    It should be informative would anybody care to post a brief explanatory note on the difference between the “cut, button or hammer forged” processes of barreling for the ignoramus as I.

    • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. Watters

      Here’s a very quick and dirty summary. All barrels start with a metal rod that then has a hole drilled into it.

      Cut rifling is pretty much what it sounds like. The rifling grooves are cut into the barrel. Some of the target barrel manufacturers do it the old way with a single-tooth cutter scraping away a single groove little by little until they reach its final depth. Then they index the barrel, and scrape out another groove. In mass production, companies would use a broach cutter to cut all of the grooves in one long pass.

      In button rifling, a carbide “button” with the reverse of the rifling pattern is either pushed or pulled through the barrel to form the all of grooves.

      In hammer-forged rifling, a much larger carbide mandrel with a reverse of the rifling pattern is placed inside a drilled-out barrel. The machine’s “hammers” forge the barrel against the mandrel to form the rifling. Some manufacturers even use the process to form the chamber at the same time.

      There is also flow forming in which rollers swage the barrel against a reverse-rifled mandrel.

      ECM uses a cathode, an electrolyte solution, and electricity to chemically etch the rifling patten into the barrel.

  • http://steyrfactorytour dave

    I would like to know how the barrel on a Steyr Pro Hunter is fitted to the reciever.Mine appears to be some sort of press fit and not threaded…

    • http://www.thegunzone.com/556dw.html Daniel E. Watters

      Steyr has been press fitting the barrels in its bolt-action rifles for decades.

    • Guesty

      I too would like to know about the Prohunter. The SSG certainly has a press fit barrel, but I recently heard that the Prohunter has a conventional threaded barrel and receiver. The video shows threaded barrels. Can anyone confirm if they are for Prohunters?

  • Ron

    Hi, where can I find the year my Stery Mannlicker was made ? SN 13034
    Thanks very much